Kenya: Comprehensive Premium Birding and Wildlife Safari


WE HAVE TEMPORARILY DISCOUNTED THE PRICE FOR EARLY BOOKINGS: THIS IS A PREMIUM TOUR COMPARED TO MOST BIRDING TRIPS TO KENYA SO CONSIDERING THAT, THE PRICE IS GREAT VALUE.

Dates and Costs:

 

26 September – 20 October 2022

Price: US$9,973  / £7,658 / € 8,933 per person sharing.

Single Supplement: US$1,840  / £1,412 / €1,649

 

* Please note that currency conversion is calculated in real-time, therefore is subject to slight change. Please refer back to the base price when making final payments.

 

06 – 30 September 2023

Price: US$10,890  / £8,361 / € 9,755 per person sharing.

Single Supplement: US$1,910  / £1,467 / €1,710


Recommended Field Guide

(Please also read our blogs about recommended field guides for the seven continents here)


Tour Details

Duration: 25 days
Group Size: 6 – 9, but we usually guarantee the trip with only 4!
Tour Start: Nairobi
Tour End:  Malindi


Price includes:

All accommodation
Meals (from lunch on Day 1 until breakfast on Day 25)
Unlimited bottled water
Expert tour leader
Local birding guide
All entrance & conservation fees
All ground transport, including airport pick-up and drop-off

Price excludes:

International/domestic flights (to/from Kenya)
International airport taxes
Items of a personal nature, e.g. gifts, laundry, internet access, phone calls, etc.
Any pre- or post-tour accommodation, meals, or birding excursions
Soft/alcoholic drinks
Laundry service
Gratuities (please see our tipping guidelines blog)
Visa
Personal travel insurance

Comprehensive Premium Kenya Birding and Wildlife Safari
September 2022/2023

 

This 25-day birding and wildlife holiday in Kenya is a more comprehensive tour of this staggeringly diverse country than any other birding tour of Kenya that we have been able to find. This trip is also more of a premium trip than most birding tours of this amazingly mammal- and bird-rich country; we use relatively spacious vehicles and comfortable accommodation compared to a number of other Kenya birdwatching holidays we’ve seen offered.

 
The iconic Secretarybird should be seen on this tour.

 

Kenya has a spectacularly diverse array of habitats packed into a small area. These range from humid tropical lowland forests with localized denizens such as Sokoke Scops Owl near the idyllic Indian Ocean coastline (which boasts Crab-plover), to snow-capped mountains at over 16,000 feet (5,000 meters) above sea level! In between the sea and the high mountains are vast arid savannas and grasslands that are famous for their endless herds of wildlife, opportunistic predators such as Africa’s big cats, and a myriad of colorful bird species. Then there are the Great Rift Valley scarps and flamingo-filled lakes, highland grasslands, the Taita Hills, a staggeringly bird-diverse tropical rainforest in the form of Kakamega and last but not least the papyrus-lined Lake Victoria, the continent’s biggest lake.

Kenya birding tours
We may be lucky enough to encounter Crab-plover along the Indian Ocean coastline.

 

Kenya is smaller than Texas, yet boasts an incredible 1,162 bird species. A relatively modest eleven of these species are single country endemics, but then Kenya also boasts a range of East African endemics such as a number of species only occurring in Kenya and Tanzania. The country has 62 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) and some of the most famous game parks in the world, including the Maasai Mara and its endless migrating wildebeest herds, Amboseli with Mount Kilimanjaro as a backdrop, and many others.

This comprehensive wildlife and birding vacation to Kenya should enable you to see around 600 bird species, enjoy excellent large game viewing and allow you to see some of Africa’s most famous sites. While we enjoy all the wildlife, we are sure to spend adequate time looking for the localized bird specials of Kenya (and East Africa as a whole), including Hinde’s Babbler, the Taita Hills endemics, Turner’s Eremomela, papyrus swamp endemics, some breathtakingly beautiful turacos, Grey-crested Helmetshrike, Abbott’s Starling, Sharpe’s Longclaw and a great variety of others.

 

Itinerary (25 days/24 nights)

 

Day 1. Nairobi

Upon arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi you will be met by our driver and tour leader and transferred to your hotel. If you arrive early, there might be time to visit the excellent Nairobi National Park. Here, Africa’s big game species (along with smaller animals such as Thomson’s Gazelle) can be seen right on the outskirts of Kenya’s capital. It’s also a rhino sanctuary and an Important Bird Area (IBA). We hope to get our bird list off to a good start with species like Saddle-billed Stork, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Martial Eagle (Africa’s largest eagle), Rüppell’s Vulture, Eastern Chanting Goshawk, Common Ostrich, Hartlaub’s Bustard and the East African endemic Red-throated Tit.

Kenya birding tours
The impressive Saddle-billed Stork should be seen on this tour.

 

Near Nairobi is also the Kikuyu Escarpment at the foot the Aberdare Mountains. Both are IBAs with important Afrotropical highland montane species including Abbott’s Starling, Black-fronted Bushshrike, Aberdare and Hunter’s Cisticolas, Kikuyu White-eye, Grey Cuckooshrike, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Grey Apalis, Mountain Greenbul and White-starred Robin, among many others.

Overnight: Nairobi

 

Day 2. Gatamaiyu Forest, Kikuyu Escarpment and the Kinangop Plateau Grasslands.

This morning we travel to Gatamaiyu Forest, part of the chain of forest fragments that form the Kikuyu Escarpment Forest about 37 miles (59 kilometers) north-west of Nairobi. This is a tropical montane forest at the foot of the Aberdare range. The forest covers close to 12,000 acres (4,720 hectares). Here, we will look for the Vulnerable (IUCN) Abbott’s Starling in the forest canopy, a denizen of a few Afromontane forests in East Africa. We will also look for other range-restricted species such as Jackson’s Spurfowl and Hunter’s Cisticola. With luck we may find Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk and Africa’s heaviest and most powerful (but not biggest) eagle, Crowned Eagle. Other species we hope to get acquainted with here are African Hill Babbler, White-starred Robin, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Tambourine Dove, Mountain Greenbul, the gorgeous and personality-filled Hartlaub’s Turaco, Slender-billed Greenbul and Kikuyu White-eye among many others. We plan to finish our birding here in the late morning before rewarding ourselves with a picnic lunch.

Kenya birding toursThe pretty White-starred Robin can be seen in Afromontane forests in Kenya.

 

After lunch, we proceed to the Kinangop Plateau grasslands (another IBA) still on the slopes of the Aberdare Range. A major target here is Kenya’s well-known grassland endemic, the Endangered (IUCN) Sharpe’s Longclaw. Many more common and widespread African birds should also be seen here including Black-winged Lapwing, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Long-tailed and Jackson’s Widowbirds, and Nyanza Swift.

Overnight: Naivasha

 

Day 3. Naivasha to Maasai Mara National Reserve

This morning, we’ll depart for the famed Maasai Mara National Reserve, contiguous with the Serengeti just across the border in Tanzania. The drive will already present some special rewards, like a sudden surprising, stunning outlook from a viewpoint at the top of the escarpment over the width of the Great Rift Valley, with Rock Hyraxes also enjoying the view. All kinds of spectacular birds along with large (and small!) game animals abound, including Grey Crowned Crane, Secretarybird, Common Wildebeest, Thomson’s Gazelle, Plains Zebra, Impala, Black-backed Jackal, Common Duiker, Vervet Monkey, and even (Maasai) Giraffe – roaming freely in the fields and using the roads together with the traffic, long before we even enter any game reserve.

Kenya birding tours
The massive Kori Bustard is often seen strolling across the open plains.

 

We’ll arrive in time for lunch and take an afternoon game drive for some of the big game animals and local birds like Kori Bustard (the world’s heaviest flying bird), several of the seven species of vultures here including Egyptian, Hooded, Rüppell’s, Lappet-faced, and White-headed, Secretarybird, Coqui Francolin, Von der Decken’s Hornbill, Hildebrandt’s Starling and Silverbird.

Overnight: Sarova Mara Lodge, Maasai Mara National Reserve

 

Day 4. Maasai Mara National Reserve

We will have a full day of birding in the park with a picnic lunch. We’ll visit the Mara River, hoping to see part of the great wildebeest migration crossing the river, but this can of course not be guaranteed (the timing varies from year to year). We’ll also look out for the “big five”: African Elephant, Lion, Leopard, rhinoceros, and African Buffalo. We should also see Hippopotamus and plains game like Thomson’s Gazelle, Topi, (Maasai) Giraffe, and Black-backed Jackal.

Birds we expect to see here include Red-necked Spurfowl, White-bellied and Black-bellied Bustards, a number of vulture species, plus many other raptors like the beautiful Long-crested Eagle, the gigantic Martial Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Black-chested Snake Eagle, the colorful Bateleur (one of the most beautiful eagles!), Shikra, and African Goshawk. In the more open areas, we can expect to encounter several species of colorful Bee-eaters, such as Cinnamon-chested, Little and White-throated, Kingfishers such as Grey-headed and African Pygmy and Rollers such as Purple and Lilac-breasted. The grasslands and woodlands also hold species such as Coqui and Red-winged Francolins, Pygmy Falcon, Southern Ground Hornbill, Fischer’s Sparrow-Lark, Foxy Lark, Trilling Cisticola, and many others.

Overnight: Serena Lodge, Mara Triangle

 

Day 5. Maasai Mara National Reserve

We can have a pre-breakfast cup of coffee and tea before our early morning game drive, after which we will return to our lodge for a proper sit-down breakfast. It is our last day in Mara, so we will carry a picnic lunch and stay out the rest of the day looking for different wildlife (as mentioned above). We also hope to enjoy large herds of wildebeest (it will be the start of the migration season) and will look out for possible wildebeest river crossing sites.

Overnight: Serena Lodge, Mara Triangle

 

Day 6. Maasai Mara to Lake Naivasha

After breakfast, we depart for Lake Naivasha, arriving in time for lunch. Lake Naivasha is a birdwatcher’s paradise with over 200 species having been recorded from the area. Our afternoon birding may yield Tropical Boubou, Orange-breasted Bushshrike, White-headed Barbet, Variable Sunbird, the dazzling Purple Grenadier, White-browed Robin-Chat with its beautiful song, the arid country specialist Buff-bellied Warbler, and Red-faced Crombec. Along the edge of the lake, we hope to find Yellow-billed Stork, Long-toed and Spur-winged Lapwings, Malachite Kingfisher, and Pink-backed Pelicans.

Overnight: Naivasha

 

Day 7. Lake Naivasha, Crescent Island Game Park

We will wake up early and do some pre-breakfast birding. After breakfast we’ll head for Crescent Island, a private wildlife game sanctuary on the eastern side of Lake Naivasha. It was created in 1988, and following a sudden drop in water levels in 2000, Crescent Island became part of the mainland and is now a peninsula. Big game animals, including Plains Zebra, Thomson’s Gazelle, Impala, and (Maasai) Giraffe, can all usually be seen up-close. Other wildlife includes (Defassa) Waterbuck, Common Eland and Common Wildebeest.

Kenya birding tours
The strikingly colored Long-toed Lapwing can be seen at Lake Naivasha.

 

Up to 80 waterbird species have been recorded during censuses, including White-backed Duck, Saddle-billed Stork, Marabou Stork, African Spoonbill, Great Crested Grebe, the ubiquitous but attractive African Jacana, and various striking lapwing species such as Long-toed and Spur-winged Lapwings.

We also hope to find the localized, Near Threatened (IUCN) Grey-crested Helmetshrike, the personality-filled Grey-capped Warbler, White-bellied Tit and a wide variety of more widespread terrestrial birds such as Black-headed Oriole, Red-chested Cuckoo, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Grey-backed and Northern Fiscals, along with many others (in Kenya, there are birds everywhere, and just so many different species!).

Overnight: Naivasha

Kenya birding toursGrey-backed Fiscal may be seen at Lake Nakuru National Park.

 

Day 8.  Lake Naivasha to Lake Bogoria National Reserve

After an early breakfast, we will check out and depart towards the wonderful Lake Bogoria National Reserve, planning to arrive at Lake Bogoria Spa Lodge in time for lunch. After lunch, we will drive to the Lake Bogoria National Reserve. Unlike Lake Nakuru, whose salinity level has been affected by an increased water volume, Bogoria’s water salinity has not been affected. Hence, the lake has retained the spirulina (blue-green algae) which is the food of Lesser Flamingo and we hope to see large numbers here (they have vanished from Lake Nakuru because of rising water levels). We might also see Greater Flamingo, Black-necked Grebe, Steppe Eagle, Tawny Eagle, African Fish Eagle and as usual a host of other interesting species in the nearby woodlands such as Pygmy Batis, Slate-colored Boubou, Nubian Woodpecker and Red-fronted Barbet.

Overnight: Lake Bogoria Spa (we’ve had to tweak our itinerary in recent years because of flooding of the rift valley lakes and two hotels being submerged!).

 

Day 9. Lake Baringo National Reserve: cliff specialists, boat ride and more

After breakfast we head to Lake Baringo early in the morning. We arrive and meet our coxswain ready to take us birding by motor boat. Unlike Lake Bogoria, just a few miles away, Lake Baringo is a freshwater lake which means a different mix of waterbirds. Some of the birds we expect to see here include Goliath Heron, Hamerkop, Senegal Thick-knee, Gull-billed Tern, Grey-headed Kingfisher, dazzling Northern Carmine Bee-eater, and Golden-backed Weaver, among others.

Kenya birding tours
The vivid colors of Northern Carmine Bee-eater will leave you awestruck.

 

After a two-hour boat ride, we have an hour or so to search for terrestrial beauties here like Eastern Violet-backed Sunbird, Spotted Palm Thrush and Abyssinian Roller among others, before we break for lunch. In the late afternoon we resume birding, now along the cliffs, looking for Hemprich’s Hornbill, Bristle-crowned Starling, Verreaux’s Eagle, and Rock Hyrax, the eagle’s main prey. With the help of a local naturalist, we’ll walk along the famous Tugen Hills, known for their great diversity of raptors and owls, as well as interesting passerines. Here we hope to find Three-banded Courser, Slender-tailed Nightjar, Greyish Eagle-Owl, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse, White-bellied Canary, Brown-tailed Rock Chat, Jackson’s Hornbill, Speckle-fronted Weaver, White-billed and White-headed Buffalo Weavers, Dark Chanting Goshawk, African Grey and Nubian Woodpeckers, Red-and-yellow and D’Arnaud’s Barbets, and Purple Roller, and many others.

Overnight: Lake Bogoria Spa

 

Day 10. Lake Baringo to Kakamega Forest National Reserve

We’ll do a pre-breakfast bird walk, and after we’ve eaten, we’ll drive to the Kakamega Forest National Reserve. This drive takes us through the beautiful scenery of the Kerio Valley. We will stop in the valley for a picnic lunch and do some birding, looking for White-crested Turaco, Beautiful Sunbird, Orange-breasted and Grey-headed Bushshrikes, and White-crested Helmetshrike, among others.

Kakamega Forest is Kenya’s only true tropical rainforest, similar to the central and west African forests, and this area is alive with birds, some of which are found nowhere else in the country. We will also have a full day tomorrow to explore this bird-rich area.

Overnight: Rondo Retreat Center, Kakamega Forest

Kenya birding toursGreat Blue Turaco is loud and conspicuous in Kakamega Forest.

 

Day 11. Kakamega Forest National Reserve

We will spend the day enjoying the sights and sounds of this unique forest. We’ll walk the numerous forest trails here in search of many of Kakamega’s 194 bird species. The forest is West African in character, and many birds’ Kenyan distributions are confined to this forest, here at the eastern extent of their range only marginally making it into this country. The rainforest is also a haven for butterflies and other insects, along with its vast avian riches.

In this tropical greenhouse we’ll get a chance to see Great Blue Turaco, Blue-headed Bee-eater, Brown-eared Woodpecker, Yellow-crested Woodpecker, Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Joyful Greenbul, Shelley’s Greenbul, Red-tailed Bristlebill, Cabanis’s Greenbul, Slender-billed Greenbul, the gem-like African Emerald Cuckoo, and the cacophonous Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill. The forest is well-known for scarce/localized forest barbets including the stunning Yellow-billed Barbet. The forest has a Near-Threatened (IUCN) high canopy warbler species, Turner’s Eremomela, which we will scan for in canopy bird parties. The area also has a small population of the Endangered (IUCN) Grey Parrot, a species which, with some luck, we can find here (although it is much easier on our West African tours, such as to Ghana).

Kakamega Forest also supports good populations of three species of wattle-eyes including Yellow-bellied, Jameson’s and Chestnut Wattle-eye. The shy White-spotted Flufftail is sometimes seen along streams near Rondo Lodge. The forest here is dense and pristine with tall tree canopies, where species like Western Oriole, Red-headed Malimbe, Stuhlmann’s Starling, Sharpe’s Drongo and many others can be searched for.

A range of primate species such as Blue and Red-tailed Monkeys, beautiful Guereza (Black-and-white Colobus), as well as De Brazza’s Monkey, can also be seen in this forest. Forty percent of the total butterfly population of Kenya is found in Kakamega Forest as well. We’ll also get a chance to experience more of the diverse African culture of the Luhya people.

Overnight: Rondo Retreat Center, Kakamega Forest

 

Day 12 Birding on the shores of Lake Victoria

We will start the day with an early breakfast and then have a one-hour transfer south to the shores of Lake Victoria. This is Africa’s largest freshwater body and in fact the second-largest freshwater lake in the world. The lake borders three East African countries, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, most of it being in Tanzania (49%) and Uganda (45%), with Kenya having the smallest portion (6%). It is the source of the mighty Nile River flowing north to Egypt. The reed beds around the lake provide unique habitat for a few papyrus specials including Papyrus Gonolek, Papyrus Canary and Carruthers’s Cisticola. Also present here are many strikingly-colored weavers such as Black-headed Weaver, Northern Brown-throated Weaver and Slender-billed Weaver. We aim to arrive here around 8 am and will then team up with our local guide and coxswain for a boat ride on the lake looking for the abovementioned species. After a few hours on the lake, we will enjoy coffee and a cup of tea and then head back to Rondo Retreat for lunch. We will then enjoy our last birding around the forest in the late afternoon.

Overnight: Rondo Retreat Center, Kakamega Forest

 

Day 13. Kakamega Forest National Reserve to Lake Nakuru National Park

We’ll depart, after breakfast, for Lake Nakuru National Park, allowing time to search for several key species along the way. In the early afternoon we’ll arrive at Lake Nakuru National Park, where in previous years, vast numbers of Lesser Flamingos used to feed in the shallow alkaline water, now replaced with smaller numbers of Greater Flamingos because of a change in the lake’s salinity. Lake Nakuru National Park was recently named an IBA by BirdLife International due to the huge bird populations/diversity in this magnificent park. A large rocky escarpment en route is a favorite roosting spot for Mackinder’s Eagle-Owl, the northern subspecies (sometimes split into its own species) of Cape Eagle-Owl. The Acacia scrub is a favorite haunt for Little Rock Thrush, Mocking Cliff Chat, Pale Flycatcher and Purple Grenadier. Exploring the Acacia woodland and lakeside marshes we will no doubt come across many other wonderful avian delights in addition, such as Great White Pelican, African Harrier-Hawk, Hildebrandt’s Spurfowl, Levaillant’s Cuckoo, White-browed Coucal, Green Wood Hoopoe, Red-throated Wryneck, African Grey Woodpecker, Anteater Chat, Grey-backed Fiscal, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Fischer’s Lovebird and African Firefinch.

Mammals are also quite common in the park, and this is one of the few places in East Africa where both the endangered White and Black Rhinoceroses can be found. Some of the other mammals we hope to encounter are (Rothschild’s) Giraffe and Bohor Reedbuck.

Overnight: Nakuru

 

Day 14. Lake Nakuru National Park to Olpajeta Wildlife Conservancy

We’ll depart, after breakfast, for Olpajeta Wildlife Conservancy, allowing time to search for several key species along the way. We will also have a stopover at Thomson’s Falls at Nyahururu which is one of Kenya’s highest towns, at 7,700 feet (2,360 meters) above sea level. Just outside the town lies Thomson’s Falls on the Ewaso Narok River. It falls an impressive 230 feet (72 meters), with the mist feeding the dense forest below. At Thomson’s Falls we’re likely to see Chestnut-winged and Slender-billed Starlings, Rock Martin, Grey Cuckooshrike, Kikuyu White-eye, and Tacazze and Collared Sunbirds. We will have our lunch here before proceeding to Olplajeta, however we will have a stop en route at Wajee Camp to look for the Vulnerable (IUCN) Kenyan endemic Hinde’s Babbler as well as Holub’s Golden Weaver.

Kenya birding toursTacazze Sunbird is one of the many beauties we will look for at Thomson’s Falls.

 

In the afternoon we will arrive at Olpajeta Wildlife Conservancy and head straight to the lodge. Later in the afternoon we will enjoy yet another fantastic game drive looking for both Black and White Rhino, while other wildlife here includes African ElephantAfrican BuffaloGrevy’s Zebra, Bushbuck, and Common Warthog. We may take a walk in the nearby forest, where we’ll look for African Dusky Flycatcher, Cabanis’s Greenbul, Abyssinian Thrush and others.

Overnight: Serena Camp, Olpajeta Wildlife Conservancy

 

Day 15. Olpajeta Wildlife Conservancy

On our second day here, we will have an early-morning game drive (before breakfast), looking for both Red-billed and Yellow-billed Oxpeckers, Fischer’s Sparrow-Lark, Northern White-crowned Shrike, Meyer’s Parrot and Augur Buzzard and lots more. After breakfast we can visit the Chimpanzee Sanctuary and learn more about this fascinating primate, whose population in the wild is heavily affected by poaching and illegal trafficking. We will then have lunch at our lodge and enjoy an early-afternoon rest before our late-afternoon game drive.

Overnight: Serena Camp, Olpajeta Wildlife Conservancy

 

Day 16 Olpajeta Wildlife Conservancy to Samburu National Reserve

In the morning we will take a bird walk around the lodge grounds and then after another tasty breakfast we will depart for Samburu National Reserve. This is one of our longer drives (roughly four hours), however we will take birding stops along the way which will give us the opportunity to stretch our legs and enjoy more of Kenya’s magnificent birdlife. In particular we will keep our eyes open here for spectacular Long-tailed and Red-collared Widowbirds along the roadside.

Samburu is an arid reserve, presenting us with some new species as described for the next day. Our hosts here are the Samburu people, who are pastoralists, herding their cattle like their cousins in the south, the Maasai. We will search for game animals as we make our way to our lodge and will have a chance for an evening game drive in search of the many birds and animals that inhabit this impressive park.

Overnight: Samburu National Reserve

Kenya birding toursSamburu National Reserve holds large numbers of game animals, such as this impressive Beisa Oryx.

 

Day 17. Samburu National Reserve

Samburu is one of the most exciting reserves in Kenya, perhaps even in greater East Africa, with the semi-desert habitat and rich woodlands along the Ewaso Ng’iro River teeming with wildlife. Exploring  this fantastic reserve will  always produce a most overwhelming array of bird species, such as Somali Ostrich, African Hawk-Eagle, Crested Francolin, Yellow-necked Spurfowl, impressive Vulturine Guineafowl, Kori, Buff-crested and White-bellied Bustards, Black-faced and Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse, Red-bellied Parrot, Somali Bee-eater, Von der Decken’s Hornbill, stunning Red-and-yellow Barbet, Pink-breasted Lark, truly beautiful Rosy-patched Bushshrike, Hunter’s and Black-bellied Sunbirds, Golden-breasted and Fischer’s Starlings, Donaldson Smith’s Sparrow-Weaver, and Cut-throat Finch. Also found here is the cute White-headed Mousebird, to complete the set of all three Kenyan mousebird species (mousebirds are a charismatic, uniquely African family of wonderfully long-tailed, crested birds), among many other Maasai-Somali biome species.

Mammal life here is also prolific, with many species not seen elsewhere on our tour. Just a few of the many possibilities include Olive Baboon, Dwarf Mongoose, Grevy’s Zebra, Giraffe (Maasai and Reticulated subspecies), Kirk’s and Guenther’s Dik-dik, (Coke’s) Hartebeest, Waterbuck, Gerenuk, Grant’s and Thomson’s Gazelle and the splendid Beisa Oryx.

Overnight: Samburu National Reserve

Kenya birding safariNorthern Red-billed Hornbill is one of a number of hornbill species we should see in Kenya.

 

Day 18. Samburu National Reserve to Nairobi

We leave Samburu soon after breakfast and drive southwards towards Nairobi. Birding along the way, we proceed past the semi-arid Northern Frontier District into the Mount Kenya region. En route we will pass through spectacular scenery, with the grasslands along the roadside a great place for Black-winged Lapwing, Black-winged Kite, Dusky Turtle Dove, Cape Crow, Long-tailed Widowbird, and Speke’s Weaver.

After crossing the equator, we enter the Central Kenya Highlands between the Aberdare Range and Mount Kenya. On a clear day we may get glimpses of the snow-capped peaks of the second-highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kenya. Making our way farther south out of the Central Kenya Highlands, we’ll see the pineapple plantations of Thika and many Kikuyu subsistence farms before arriving once more in Nairobi.

Overnight: Nairobi

 

Day 19. Nairobi to Tsavo West National Park via Amboseli and Kilimanjaro

This is a long driving day with an early start, but it will reward us with some of Africa’s most famous scenery and a set of new birds. After breakfast we’ll proceed to Amboseli National Park right near the Tanzania border. Here, Mount Kilimanjaro is a backdrop to amazing scenes of big game and plentiful birds!

Kenya birding tours
While passing through Amboseli National Park, we will enjoy safari scenes with Mount Kilimanjaro as a majestic backdrop (photo
Amoghavarsha via WikiMedia/CC BY-SA 3.0)!

 

Tsavo West National Park is next on our agenda. The Tsavo habitat is a relatively dense thicket of savanna dominated by Acacia and Camiphora bush with baobabs, grassy plains, riverine woodland, and the Mzima Springs. We’ll ensure we arrive in time for lunch. In the afternoon we will take a game drive in the park, which supports a large number of big game species such as African Elephant, rhino, Lion, huge herds of African Buffalo, and more. Here, Mount Kilimanjaro is a backdrop to the amazing scenes of big game and plentiful birds. There will be a large number of new species for us here, including Splendid and Hildebrandt’s Starlings, Common Ostrich, Hartlaub’s Bustard, Black and Abyssinian Scimitarbills, African Grey and Northern Red-billed Hornbills, while night birds include Donaldson Smith’s and Freckled Nightjars, Pearl-spotted Owlet, and African Wood Owl.

Overnight: Tsavo West National Park

 

Day 20. Tsavo West National Park

After breakfast we tour the Mzima Springs which are part of the Chyulu Range and are composed of porous volcanic lava rock and ashes, which purifies the water to produce the spring’s sparklingly clear water. We shall drive along lava rocks and explore the spring on foot enjoying views of Nile Crocodile and Hippopotamus and birds such as Holub’s Golden Weaver, Red-headed Weaver, Black-necked Weaver, Shikra, Little Sparrowhawk, Eastern Black-headed Batis, African Golden Oriole, Straw-tailed Whydah, and many others.

Other wildlife to experience here includes Blue Monkey, Yellow Baboon, African Elephant and Klipspringer. We will head back to our lodge for lunch and later in the afternoon we will enjoy a game drive to the rhino sanctuary.

Overnight: Tsavo West National Park

 

Day 21. Tsavo West National Park to Taita Hills

After breakfast we will drive through Tsavo National Park to Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary. This is a private conservancy on the slopes of the Taita Hills. The forest shares botanical similarities with the Usambara Mountains in Tanzania to the south. We will arrive in time for lunch and have an afternoon drive exploring the riverine and savanna thickets and open plains in the conservancy for different species of both birds and mammals. We will look for Black-throated Barbet, Pangani Longclaw, Spotted Palm Thrush, Eastern Violet-backed Sunbird, Red-fronted Prinia and Grey Wren-Warbler, among others.

Overnight: Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary

 

Day 22.  Taita Hills Forest

We have an early breakfast before dawn and ascend to the Taita Hills forests, birding in the conservancy en route. The drive will take us about two hours to the top of Ngangao Forest, one of the major forest fragments. We will then meet our local guide and explore the forest. One of our major targets will be Taita Thrush which is found on the forest floor and can be a rather shy species; we will thus need to ensure we keep noise to a minimum! We hope to see the other two Taita endemics (Taita Apalis and Taita White-eye) among the many other highland forest species. Other goodies here include Striped Pipit, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Stripe-cheeked Greenbul, White-starred Robin, Hartlaub’s Turaco and many more. After our forest walk, we will have a picnic lunch and head back to the wildlife sanctuary for an afternoon game drive.

Overnight: Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary

 

Day 23. Taita Hills to Watamu (Mida Creek)

After an early morning breakfast, we will head further south towards the Indian Ocean coast to the beach resort of Watamu (meaning “sweet”). On our way we will stop at Mida Creek for a picnic and then proceed for shore birding along the creek. Mida Creek, part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, is a large inlet that opens into the sea south of Watamu and rises and falls with the tides. Mida Creek contains one of Africa’s largest mangroves and a very important part of the marine ecosystem in the Watamu/Sokoke World Biosphere Zone. The mangrove roots provide a rich source of food for fish, crabs, shrimp, and oysters. The fish and crustaceans then provide the food for Mida’s legions of birds. Thousands of migratory birds regularly visit here, with Crab-plover being its star attraction. We walk on the boardwalk to Mida Village through the mangrove habitat, looking for birds like Dimorphic Egret, Gull-billed and Saunders’s Terns, Greater Sand Plover, and Water Thick-knee, and if we’re lucky we may find Crab-plover.

We can spend the afternoon relaxing in the cool tidal breeze on the snow-white sandy beaches after an adventurous and bird-filled journey.

Overnight: Watamu

Kenya birding tours
The sought-after Spotted Ground Thrush can be found at Arabuko-Sokoke National Reserve.

 

Day 24. Arabuko-Sokoke National Reserve

However, the adventure is not over just yet, as today we’ll take a short drive to the unique Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, where we’ll spend our time walking trails around the forest. It is one of the last remnant indigenous coastal forests in Kenya, and is by far the largest remnant of the forests that once dominated Kenya’s coastal fringe. The forest contains at least three distinct vegetation types, which provide habitat for several threatened species, and it has a very high number of species in relation to its size. Twenty percent of Kenya’s bird species and about thirty percent of its butterflies have been recorded in this small part (0.07%) of Kenya. At least 24 bird, mammal, and butterfly species are restricted to this stretch of coast. This high proportion of endemic species, some known only from Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, makes the forest a key part of the East African Coastal Forests Endemic Bird Area.

The forest holds some rare endemic species like Sokoke Scops Owl, Sokoke Pipit and Clarke’s Weaver, as well as other key species like Amani Sunbird, Fischer’s Turaco, Crested Guineafowl, Spotted Ground Thrush, Chestnut-fronted and Retz’s Helmetshrikes, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Eastern Nicator, Mombasa Woodpecker, Mangrove Kingfisher, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Green Barbet and Black-bellied Starling.

Overnight: Arabuko-Sokoke National Reserve

 

Day 25. Departure

After breakfast we transfer to the airport in Malindi and connect to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to fly back home.

 

 

Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors. In addition, we sometimes have to use a different international guide from the one advertised due to tour scheduling.

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Kenya: Birds and Other Wildlife, Custom Trip Report

09 – 29 SEPTEMBER 2019

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The stunning Vulturine Guineafowl was one of the many species we found on this trip.

 

Overview

 

Kenya is one of the most biodiversity rich countries in the world. It has varied ecosystems that support some important, unique, endemic, and endangered flora and fauna. These ecosystems include the saline and freshwater lakes in the Rift Valley, the freshwater Lake Victoria in the west, the marine, coastal ecosystem in the southwest, tropical rainforest in the west, highland montane forests in the central highlands, the massive Mau Forest, which is the largest indigenous montane forest complex in East Africa in the southwest, and coastal dry forests and the vast savannas in the east. Our trip started in Nairobi and covered most of these great ecosystems, offering the chance to experience different wildlife communities as well as the human communities that live alongside.

Nairobi and its neighboring counties have a lot to offer the tourist, especially in terms of birding. Birders visiting the city for meetings and conferences and symposiums have enough to see in if they have some free times on their schedules. The Nairobi National Park, for example, is just seven kilometers away from the city center. A day trip can even take you to Lake Naivasha, some 57 kms away, or to Lake Nakuru National Park.

It’s worth noting that this year the Eurasian migratory species arrived very late, probably even not before late in October. By the end of September, at the end of our tour, we had encountered very few migratory species. On this trip most of the birds were photographed. A total of 475 species were seen, with 88 percent of them photographed. It was a great trip for mammals too, yielding 42 mammal species, some of them including multiple subspecies.

 

Detailed Report

 

Day 1, 9 September 2019. Karen

Our birding started in Nairobi with a Marabou Stork near the Nairobi Serena Hotel. In the midmorning we made a birding trip to Karen, southwest of Nairobi on the edges of the Ngong Forest Sanctuary. These are private areas that still hold some pockets of pristine montane forest. We found a good collection of both forest specialists and forest generalists. They included Hartlaub’s Turaco, Heuglin’s White-eye, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Chinspot Batis, White-headed Barbet, Spot-flanked Barbet, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Collared Sunbird, Variable Sunbird, Tropical Boubou, both Cabanis’s and Yellow-whiskered Greenbuls, and White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher. Most of the species seen were photographed.

 

Day 2, 10 September 2019. Gatamaiyu Forest

Today we traveled to Gatamaiyu Forest on the slopes of the Aberdare Range (part of the Kenya Central Highlands), some 80 kilometers (50 feet) from Nairobi. We found a variety of highland forest birds, including Mountain Greenbul, Grey Apalis, Chestnut-throated Apalis, and Hartlaub’s Turaco, among many others. On our way back to Nairobi in some tea plantations we came across a few farmland birds, including African Stonechat, Hunter’s Cisticola, and many weavers among other birds. We returned to Nairobi Serena Hotel for dinner and an overnight.

 

Day 3, 11 September 2019. Nairobi to Maasai Mara National Reserve

After breakfast we headed to our first safari destination, the famous Masai Mara. It’s a long day of driving. We arrived at the Mara Simba Lodge six hours later at lunch time. After checking in we had lunch and rested till 15:30 p.m., when we left for our afternoon game drive. There were so many birds in the bushes along the way between the main gate and the reception, a distance of less than 500 meters (1640 feet). As soon as we were out of the gate there was a lot of mammals to see. including African Elephants, a pride of Lions, and a Cheetah; a male Cheetah was very active along the tour buses. We also came across birds such as Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Brown Parrot, Silverbird, White-bellied Bustard, Lilac-breasted Roller, Rüppell’s Starling, Hildebrandt’s Starling, Tawny Eagle. and Augur Buzzard, to name just a few.  We were back at Mara Simba Lodge for dinner and the night.

 

Day 4, 12 September 2019. Maasai Mara

Our second day in the Maasai Mara was a full day of both mammals and birds. It provided a number of surprises, including a Cheetah with three cubs in the field. Patience really paid us big dividends here, because, as other safari vehicles were rushing to get a glimpse of them when they were barely visible behind a croton thicket and then drove away, we stayed put and saw the Cheetahs very well when they came out and were lining up, although some distance away, but good for photos. At a much closer distance along the river bank we saw a group of Common Wildebeests coming to drink. Then out of nowhere came a single Lioness and attacked and killed one of the wildebeests as we watched. Although everything was so exciting that we really wanted to stay long and watch, we had to head back for lunch. In the afternoon we had a guided walk along the Mara River, where there were lots of Hippopotamuses and a few birds, including Common Sandpiper and Egyptian Goose.

 

Day 5, 13 September 2019. Maasai Mara to Lake Naivasha

The following morning after breakfast we had our final game drive on our way out of the Maasai Mara, heading for Lake Naivasha.

We arrived at Elsamere Lodge at lunchtime and had lunch after checking into our rooms. This property  used to be the home of Joy and George Adamson  of Born Free fame. They had a passion for the conservation in particular of wild cats, including lions and leopards. After lunch we spent the afternoon until the late evening exploring the hotel grounds and the beautiful yellow-barked acacia woodland for terrestrial birds.  Our finds included Hamerkop, African Fish Eagle, Green Wood Hoopoe, African Grey Woodpecker, White-bellied Tit, and African Thrush. Then we had dinner at the lodge and a good night’s sleep.

 

Day 6, 14 September 2019. Lake Naivasha

In the morning we had a bird walk on the ground of the lodge before breakfast. This was a morning for boat rides and later a walk on Crescent Island on Lake Naivasha watching birds and many mammals including Plains Zebra, Giraffe, Common Wildebeest, and Impala. It was a suny and hot day, but walking in the shade of the yellow-barked acacias provided relief. We returned to the lodge by boat with fishing African Fish Eagles. Back at the lodge a few Eastern Black-and-white Colobuses showed on a tree right in front of the dining room. Unlike baboons and vervet monkeys, these primates will not distub people having meals. After luch we drove farther south to Lake Oloiden to find more birds. Here we spotted the rare Grey-crested Helmetshrike passing toward its roosting site, another wonderful experience.

As we drove back to the lodge a number of beautiful Masai Giraffes, the largest giraffe subspecies, wandered from their feeding sites toward their roosting site, crossing the main highway that leads to the lodge. A great moment with giraffes up-close as the sun was setting!  We had one more restful night at Elsamere.

 

Day 7, 15 September 2019. Elsamere to Lake Bogoria National Reserve

Early in the morning after breakfast we drove northwest along the Great Rift Valley to Lake Bogoria National Reserve. This is a saline lake in dry savanna ecosystem. We arrive at Lake Bogoria Spa Resort in time for lunch. After luch we drove into the reserve and spent the better part of the afternoon and evening with flamingos.This is the best place in Kenya to encounter the largest population of Lesser Flamingos in the country, with a few Greater Flamingos among them. Close to 300,000 Lesser Flamingos forage here because it is now the only lake with the right water chemistry to produce the correct species of blue green alge (cyanobacteria), the main food source of this species. Today there were about 50 Greater Flamingos in the flocks of thousands of Lesser Flamingos. What a fabulous spectacle!

Lesser and Greater Flamingos at Lake Bogoria.

 

Day 8, 16 September 2019. Lake Bogoria to Lake Baringo

In the morning we headed back to the lake for photographing flamingo in  the great morning light at Lake Bogoria National Reserve. There was a very beatiful pink glow in the simmering rays of the sunrise. We spent two hours here before breakfast. After breakfast we drove to Lake Baringo, the northernmost Rift Valley Lake in Kenya. This is a paradise for both waterbirds and terrestrial species, both resident and migratory. We took a morning boat tour, looking for birds until lunchtime. It would have been wasting time to drive back to our accommodation for lunch, so we decided to have a hot lunch at  the nearby Soi Safari Lodge and afterwards continue birding. Our local guide did a tremendous job right from the boat tour to bush-and-woodland birding and finally to the famous Tugen Hills cliffs. This was the best  birding day of the trip, with four species of owls (African Scops Owl, Spotted Eagle-Owl, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, and Pearl-spotted Owlet), weavers (White-headed and White-billed Buffalo Weavers, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, Baglafecht Weaver, Lesser Masked Weaver, Northern Masked Weaver, and Little Weaver), Purple Roller, Blue-cheeked and Northern Carmine Bee-eaters, Woodland and Malachite Kingfishers, African Darter, Reed Cormorant, and a full slate of herons and egrets including Goliath Heron, among many others.

Goliath Heron, Lake Baringo.

 

Day 9, 17 Setember 2019. Lake Baringo to Kakamega Forest

After breakfast we drove through the Kerio Valley with a brief stop at Cheploch Gorge, where we searched for and found White-crested Turaco. Other birds we saw here were Black-winged Red Bishop, Southern Black Flycatcher, Black-headed Oriole, and Black-headed Gonolek among other common species. We then continued our drive to Kakamega Forest and arrived in the late afternoon. After meeting the local guide we enjoyed some evening birding and then had dinner at the Rondo Retreat Centre, where we stayed overnight.

 

Day 10, 18 September 2019. Kakamega Forest

Early in the morning we birded on the grounds of the Rondo Retreat Centre and along a number of nature trails along a nearby river.

After breakfast we drove to Ikuywa River and had a fabulous, neck-breaking birding session along the forest trail. There were birds everywhere. We enjoyed rainforest birds like Dark-backed Weaver, Ross’s Turaco, White-headed Wood Hoopoe, Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat, Yellow-billed, Yellow-spotted, and Grey-throated Barbets, Pale-breasted Illadopsis, Lühder’s Bushshrike, Mackinnon’s Shrike, and the rare Turner’s Eremomela among others, before we went back to the lodge for lunch.  In the evening we took another forest walk on the Pump House Trail and along the local tea plantations. We were delighted to encounter some different species like Red-tailed Bristlebill, African Blue Flycatcher, Slender-billed Greenbul, Joyful Greenbul, Chubb’s Cisticola, Black Sparrowhawk, Brown-chested Alethe, Northern Yellow White-eye, Equatorial Akalat, and White-tailed Ant Thrush, among others.

Mackinnon’s Shrike feeding on a frog, Kakamega Forest.

 

Day 11, 19 September 2019. Kakamega Forest to Lake Nakuru

Early in the morning we had our last birding session around the Rondo Retreat Centre before we loaded the vehicle and headed for Lake Nakuru.

When we arrived in Lake Nakuru National Park we went straight to Sarova Lion Hill Game Lodge, checked into our rooms, and had lunch. After lunch we had some rest before proceeding on an afternoon game drive. The water chemistry of Lake Nakuru has really changed in recent years due to the water uprising and submerging parts of the terrestrial ecosystem. This has in turn affected the salinity levels, which impacted directly on the presence here of Lesser Flamingos, many of which have left the area and moved to Lake Baringo. Ground nesting birds like plovers have as well been affected.  We were fortunate enough, however, to view both the White and the Black Rhinoceros this afternoon before we headed for the lakeshore to see Greater Flamingos among other waders. We also saw other great birds, including Saddle-billed Stork, Grey Crowned Crane, Great Egret, Little-Egret, African Spoonbill, Cape Teal, Red-billed Teal, Hottentot Teal, and Whiskered Tern among other waders and terrestrial birds. Then we returned to Sarova Lion Hill Game Lodge for dinner and an overnight.

African Spoonbill, Lake Nakuru National Park.

 

Day 12, 20 September 2019, Lake Nakuru National Park to Mount Kenya

In the morning we had breakfast and later a morning game drive on our way out of Lake Nakuru National Park to Kenya’s Central Highlands and Mount Kenya. We arrived at the Serena Mountain Lodge on the slope of Mount Kenya early enough to have some rest before lunch. After lunch we took an afternoon walk in the forest, led by the area’s resident naturalist. The afternoon was a bit windy, but still we had great views of Mountain Oriole, Cabanis’s and Yellow-whiskered Greenbuls, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Hartlaub’s Turaco, and Heuglin’s White-eye among many others.

 

Day 13, 21 September 2019. Mount Kenya to Samburu National Park

The morning was somewhat cloudy, but slowly it got better with time. By 6:30 a.m. we were on the roof of the lodge, viewing the forest canopy and the mountain.  As the sun rose the mountain got clearer and the birds started feeding, chirping and singing in the canopy. From here we had some better views than we had had before of Black-throated Apalis and saw Eastern Bronze-napped Pigeon, African Green Pigeon, Dusky Turtle Dove, Yellow-crowned Canary, and Red-bellied Parrot among others. Then we went for breakfast and afterwards started to head north toward Samburu National Park as it got warmer and drier.

We arrived in Samburu around 11:00 a.m. and took a game drive along the Ewaso Ng’iro River before we head to the lodge for lunch. This river originates in the Mau Escarpment, flowing north and ending in the Lorian Swamp. It is the major source of life, together with the smaller Isiolo River, in this dry savanna ecosystem. Samburu is very dry through most of the year, but it has some unique wildlife found nowhere else in the country.  We arrived at the Samburu Simba Lodge in the Buffalo Springs part of Samburu for lunch and then had a rest during the hottest time of the day. In the afternoon we encountered some wonderful, amazing, and totally different wildlife, including Grevy’s Zebra, Reticulated Giraffe, Beisa Oryx, Somali Ostrich, Somali Fiscal, White-headed Mousebird, a flock of about 12 Scissor-tailed Kites, and many Steppe Eagles.

Grevy’s Zebra, Samburu National Park.

 

Day 14, 22 September 2019, Samburu National Park

In the morning we had a cup of tea and then a morning game drive before breakfast. After breakfast we spent the whole day in the field with a picnic lunch. The list of new wildlife became even longer with Pygmy Falcon, Donaldson-Smith’s Sparrow-Weaver, Vulturine Guineafowl, Palm-nut Vulture, Rosy-patched Bushshrike, and a nesting Martial Eagle with a juvenile. A Leopard resting in a tree and later coming down to quench its thirst in a small pool of water was very rewarding.

 

Day 15. 23 September 2019. Samburu National Park to Nairobi

In the morning we had breakfast, followed by a morning game drive before leaving Samburu National Park for Nairobi. It was a long driving day, but we were looking forward to the next phase of our tour in the southwestern and coastal regions of the country.  We drove back to the Nairobi Serena Hotel, our host in the city, for dinner and an overnight rest.

White-headed Mousebird, Samburu National Park.

 

Day 16, 24 September 2019. Nairobi to Tsavo West National Park

After breakfast we headed south toward the south-western region of Kenya. Our goal was Tsavo West National Park (9,065 square kilometers/3500 square miles). Together Tsavo West and Tsavo East National Parks are the largest protected area managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service. They two parks are separated by the A109 road Nairobi-Mombasa and a railway line. Tsavo East is lower in elevation than Tsavo West, which is characterized by scenic volcanic hills and volcanic ash and rocks. It is a trip of about six hours. We stopped at Hunters Lodge along the way to have a cup of tea before continuing. Just before proceeding after tea there was a Striated Heron at the end of the pool, and a little later a White-headed Barbet and a flock of Chestnut-fronted Helmetshrikes came in. We continued to Tsavo West and had a game drive through the park on our way to the lodge through dense acacia scrub and woodland, very different from Samburu, which very dry and open. We arrive at Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge a bit late, but lunch was still being served. After lunch we checked into our rooms and then took another game drive. There was a lot to see. We drove toward the volcanic ash and rocks and saw lots of birds, including Golden-breasted Starling, Buff-crested Bustard, Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Bateleur, and both Three-streaked and Black-crowned Tchagra. This was the first time we came across Klipspringer (a pair) on the volcanic rocks. There also were many Lesser Kudus in the thickets and lots of African Elephants. At sunset we start heading back to Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge to have dinner and stay overnight. Here was plenty of wildlife at the waterhole in front of the dining room and guestrooms, including Plains Zebra, African Buffalo, Yellow Baboon, Impala, and Common Waterbuck.

Golden-breasted Starling, Tsavo West National Park.

 

Day 17, 25 September 2019. Tsavo West National Park to Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary

After coffee and tea we took an early-morning game drive before breakfast. It yielded a lot of birds for which we hardly had to move any distance away from our lodge. After breakfast we had a late-morning game drive on our way to the Taita Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, our next destination. En route we took a walk at Mzima Springs, enjoying Hippopotamuses and colorful fish in the clean, transparent spring water.

From Mzima Springs we drove out of Tsavo West National Park to the Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary, a private sanctuary of some 110 square kilometers/28,000 acres, arriving in time for lunch at the Sarova Salt Lick Game Lodge. After lunch we went along a riverine forest stripe to a marsh with a vast African Elephant community. Along the way we found diverse avian communities ranging from weavers (White-headed and Red-billed Buffalo Weavers, White-browed Sparrow- Weaver, Lesser Masked Weaver, and Speke’s Weaver), White-browed Coucal, and storks (Woolly-necked, Marabou, and Yellow-billed Storks) to multiple vultures (Hooded, White-backed, Rüppell’s, Lappet-faced, and Palm-nut Vultures). A highlight definitely was the striking Red-bellied Parrot.

As we drove back to the lodge we encountered a Cheetah with four cubs on a kill. The grass was too tall for perfect photos, but it was just gorgeous to enjoy the feeding behavior of mother and cubs. Our first Southern Ground Hornbills in a family of four walked in, but our focus was still on the unique cheetah- and cub behavior, which we watched for rest of the afternoon until there was no more light. On our way back to the lodge, when the cameras were locked away and it would have been much too dark for photos anyway, there suddenly appeared a Serval out of nowhere and equally suddenly disappeared before the cameras were out. Quite a few unidentifiable nightjars also flew over.

 

Day 18, 26 September 2019. Taita Hills Forests IBA and Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary

Our second day at Taita Hills was scheduled for a forest bird walk in the morning. After breakfast we drove to the Taita Hills Forests IBA (International Bird and Biodiversity Area as defined by BirdLife International) some two hours away. We were ascending to a higher altitude of about 700 meters/2297 feet elevation. We arrived a bit late at around 8:30 a.m. and met our resident guide, Nathaniel, who was waiting for us. It was slightly chilly here, and the forest was quite dense. These highly fragmented forests patches are of great importance for conservation, because they hold three endemic birds and many other endemic taxa, including plants. We were targeting Taita Thrush, Taita White-eye, Taita Apalis, Taita Fiscal, Stripe-cheeked Greenbul, Striped Pipit, and White-starred Robin. We saw and photographed most of these apart from the thrush, which we saw but it was very shy, and the apalis, which we did not manage to see.

We had to return to the sanctuary for a late lunch and our last game drive at Taita Hills in the afternoon. We had dinner and the second and last night at the Sarova Salt Lick Game Lodge.

 

Day 19, 27 September 2019. Taita Hills to Watamu via Mida Creek

With a picnic lunch we drove north-west toward the Indian Ocean coast, stopping at Mida Creek for lunch, followed by birding at the creek. We were joined for lunch by our local guide, Mr. Jonathan. Mida Creek is a tidal inlet, a diverse ecosystem, including different species of mangroves and open sand and mud flats. Its life is heavily dependent on tidal movements. The creek covers an area of about 32 square kilometers/12 square miles. We encountered a rich diversity of avian coastal species in this ecosystem. Kentish Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Greater Sand Plover, Caspian Plover, Grey Plover, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Sanderling, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Ruff, Terek Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Sooty Gull, and Gull-billed Tern were some of the species recorded. Since we were still birding around 15:30 p.m. the tide was slowly heading up the shore and the shore started flooding, leaving no room for feeding waders. At this time we headed to Sabaki River, where three different rivers, the Tsavo, Galana, and Athi, finally pour their water into the Indian Ocean. However, birding was not to happen, because the tide was rising beyond the mangroves, and this would be the time for hippos to come onto the land. So we unfortunately had to stop, head to our hotel, and look forward for forest birding tomorrow. We had dinner and stayed overnight at the Turtle Bay Beach Club in Watamu.

 

Day 20, 28 September2019. Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve

We had a very early breakfast and then headed to the Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve for birding. This is a large continuous block of coastal dry forest on the Kenyan coastline. It’s unique with large numbers of endemic and/or endangered species of wildlife, including mammals and birds. We didn’t have any luck with the endemic Golden-rumped Elephant Shrew, but the birding was fantastic. Our highlights were Black-bellied Starling, Amani Sunbird, Red-capped Robin-Chat, Fischer’s Turaco, Trumpeter Hornbill, Little Yellow Flycatcher, Black-headed Apalis, and, most importantly, Sokoke Scops Owl. Back at the hotel we found both Holub’s Golden Weavers and Golden Palm Weavers in a nesting colony. We spent our final night again at the Turtle Bay Beach Club.

Sokoke Scops Owl, Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve.

 

Day 21, 29 September 2019.  Departure

We flew back from Watamu to the Nairobi airport to board our flights back home.

 

Please see the downloadable PDF above with the full species lists included. This is a sample trip report. Please email us ([email protected]) for more trip reports from this destination.

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